“EEOC” stands for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and it is a federal agency that is responsible for combating discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC has been granted the regulatory powers to enforce a variety of anti-discrimination laws, including but not limited to:
An employee cannot sue for discrimination in federal court without first going through the EEOC, and/or its state counterparts. The EEOC will review the employee’s claim, and may intervene in order to help produce a remedy for the plaintiff’s losses. EEOC remedies generally include:
- An investigation of the employer in order to uncover and expose illegal practices;
- Requiring the employer to provide compensation to the affected employee, such as lost wages or reinstatement to their previous position if they were illegally terminated;
- Mandatory changes in company policies to avoid future instances of discrimination; and
- Participation in mediation sessions to resolve the issue(s).
EEOC mediation is one of many different remedies available in an employment law claim. The general concept of mediation involves a neutral, third-party representative helping to facilitate discussion and resolution between the employer and employee. This person is known as a mediator.
The mediator assists the conflicting parties so that they may reach a mutual agreement regarding how the violations should be resolved. This type of informal (or alternative) dispute resolution process frequently saves both parties time, as well as resources. This is because the issue is addressed outside of the traditional court system. Generally speaking, EEOC mediation is reserved for violations involving discrimination laws and other specific issues, such as gender or race discrimination violations.
Is EEOC Mediation Necessary? What Can I Expect From an EEOC Mediation?
As previously mentioned, an employee who has been discriminated against by their employee cannot simply file a lawsuit against them. They must first go through the dispute resolution process as set forth by the EEOC. However, EEOC mediation is not generally mandatory for the parties. Mediation is often suggested along with other measures, such as an investigation by the agency.
Generally speaking, mediation is only recommended for situations in which the employer and the employee are both capable of still maintaining productive discourse with one another. If one of the parties is unwilling or unable to cooperate in communicating their issues, EEOC mediation is unlikely to be ideal for resolving the conflict. An example of this would be if an employer refuses EEOC mediation. In such cases, a more formal investigation may be required. This is especially true for conflicts that involve widespread discrimination and violations in the workplace.
An EEOC mediation session generally lasts about three to four hours for each meeting. Only one meeting may be needed for the parties to resolve their differences; however, more complex circumstances may require more meetings. The EEOC generally does not charge either party for their participation in the mediation process.
All parties should attend each mediation session prepared to have a full and complete discussion with the other party regarding the conflict. They should prepare any important statements or questions that they may have regarding the issue. Doing so could result in a more effective mediation session.
It is important to note that mediation is less about having remedies prescribed by an authority, and more about the disputing parties reaching a mutual agreement. The role of the mediator is mostly to encourage, facilitate, and moderate the discussion.
How Does the EEOC Mediation Process Work? How Do I File A EEOC Mediation Complaint?
The EEOC process is initiated when the employee contacts an EEOC counselor. Contact must be made within 45 days of the alleged discrimination. The counselor will ask about the details of the incident, and will advise the person of their rights. Additionally, the counselor will try to informally resolve the matter before moving on to any other step of the process.
If the issue cannot be resolved within thirty days, a formal complaint must be lodged at an EEOC field or district office. Specific instructions regarding how to file with the EEOC can be found here. It is important to note that the charge must be filed within 180 days of the discrimination. At this point, the EEOC may offer mediation in order to try to solve the problem.
Should mediation be denied or fail, the EEOC will analyze the complaint itself in order to determine if the law supports the charge. If there is no chance of discrimination from the given facts, the EEOC may dismiss the discrimination claim.
The EEOC will likely launch an investigation into the incident, which includes interviewing witnesses, requesting documents, and collecting any other evidence of discrimination. After conducting the investigation, the EEOC may present an offer or solution to the employee. If the employee does not accept the offer, they have the right to request an “administrative hearing.” This is similar to a trial, in which an EEOC administrative judge will decide what kind of compensation the employee is to be awarded. If the employee does not agree with the judge’s decision, they can appeal to the EEOC.
If the employee still does not agree, they have the right to file a “civil action” in a state or federal court. In order to do so, the employee must obtain a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC.
How Long Does EEOC Mediation Take to Resolve a Dispute? What Is the Typical EEOC Mediation Settlement Amount?
According to the EEOC government website, the average processing time for mediation is 84 days. In terms of a typical amount for EEOC mediation settlements, an average out of court settlement is around $40,000. However, about ten percent of employment discrimination and wrongful termination cases result in a $1 million dollar settlement.
There are numerous factors that will go into determining the amount for EEOC mediation settlements, including the number of parties that are included in the claim, and the amount of damages each party is claiming to have suffered as a result of the discrimination. For example, if there was only one party alleging discrimination in the mediation, that will typically result in a lower settlement amount. However, if there are well over 100 employees claiming discrimination and damages, then the settlment amount will likely surpass the $1 million dollar settlement amount.
Typically, an employer will wish to participate in these mediations and have settlements so that they are in control of the financial impact of the lawsuit(s), rather than leaving it up to a judge or jury. Additionally, an employer could also seek a non-disparagement clause within the settlement agreement. A non-disparagement clause basically says that the employee agrees to not negatively speak about the company in any form.
Do I Need a Lawyer for the EEOC Mediation Process?
Whether you are an employer or an employee, you should consult with an experienced and local workplace lawyer if you anticipate participation in the EEOC mediation process.
Because state laws vary in terms of employment and discrimination, an experienced attorney will be best suited to help you understand how your state’s laws and the EEOC procedures will interact with each other. Your attorney can help you understand the process, file all necessary paperwork in a timely manner, and will represent you in court as needed.